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Vol.3. No. 4. July - September 2010





Afam Akeh
Andy Willoughby
Claire Girvan
Christian Ward
Derek Adams
Esiaba Irobi
Hannah Lowe
Hunter Liguore
Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye
Karunamay Sinha
Kate Horsley
Laura Solomon
Lookman Sanusi
Malcolm Bray
Mark Lewis
Moa-Aaricia Lindunger
N Quentin Woolf
Nina Romano
Nnorom Azuonye
Norbert O. Eze
Olu Oguibe
Pius Adesanmi
Robert Lee Frazier
Toyin Adepoju
Uche Nduka
Wayne Scheer
Zino Asalor

Edited by

Andy Willoughby

and Bob Beagrie


This issue of SLQ is dedicated to the memory of

ESIABA IROBI (1960 - 2010)




A short story by Claire Girvan


Bless me father for I have sinned and now I am hurt and half dead and it serves me right, because didn't you teach us that the wages of sin is death?


And all the time I was sitting at the back of the class giggling with my mates and getting told off for not paying attention and a belt off dad for crummy reports and you know I didn't mean to be that bad, I went to Mass on Sundays and I said my rosary and everything and I learned my commandments, although I know I broke some of them especially the swearing and using God's holy name, but it was only because we all did. I didn't mean anything by it, I always felt guilty, father, does that count, because guilt is the one thing you never shake off, it's the way God keeps a hold of you isn't it?


And when I made my confession you said I shouldn't wear my skirts so short and my hair so long but I liked to look nice and I never meant any harm, because did you know I always thought I was going to be a nun, until Joey Taverner kissed me round the back of his garage, touching me till I felt all hot and melting? And I knew what I was doing wasn't right if I was going to be a nun, but there was suddenly more to life than I'd imagined and I thought what the hell I'm still only young and I thought I would maybe leave being a nun till I was older, so I wore my skirts that way and swished them about in front of the boys, but I was only doing what all the other girls were doing. We never thought anything of it, it was just a bit of fun, only maybe it was wrong, because the boys came after me with their wicked eyes and fumbling hands and I liked it father, and the married ones too sometimes and I let them because I thought a wife was no concern of mine, but I never will again father I promise, because he was the last one and the best, the one I really loved, I really did.


He wanted me to go away with him so I did, and I don't know what he told his wife and I didn't ask, and he got a weekend off for it and he wore jeans and a blue shirt, I'd never seen him in them before, he'd bought them new specially, and oh father he looked lovely, and I wore a new flowery dress all yellow, and my high heel sandals and my hair down and all perfume on my wrists and my neck. And he drove us out to this lovely little place in the country, miles from anywhere so no one would know who we were, and it had dark beams and shiny brass things over the fireplace, and I said shouldn't we call ourselves Mr and Mrs and he said nobody bothered about that any more, and the lady in reception didn't care, why should she? She was really nice, and asked us did we want breakfast in bed in the morning which I've only ever done when I've been ill and he said yes we did.


And we had our first meal together that night in the dining room with little windows out onto the garden and a big sofa in the corner, and a nice waitress, and I hadn't sat at a table and used a knife and fork since I was at school, so I watched how he did it. And we had steak chasseur with mushrooms, and he said it meant a huntsman, I don't know why, and red wine called Merlot and we played footsie under the table so the waitress wouldn't see until I thought I'd go mad.


And we could hardly wait to get upstairs to our lovely attic room, with its little diamond pane window so you could see the garden down below and the tiny white bathroom like a cupboard with sliding doors and the toilet roll folded into a V at the end and a nice sloping ceiling with a little skylight in. And he bumped his head on the beam when he was getting undressed, and I laughed and he threw me on the bed onto the big pillows and dark red satin bedspread and tickled me for it, and after that it was like losing myself and it didn't feel wrong father, it didn't, it felt as right as can be.


There was a storm in the night, but we didn't care and we just lay in bed and watched the rain coming down stair rods outside and running hard off the skylight window as if it was going to come in and the lightning flashing and counting the thunder to see how far away it was. And he said he felt as if he was married to me, and I said I felt the same, and  father I really did, and then we did it again and he slept in my arms the rest of the night, and I didn't sleep, not a wink at all, just held him and listened to him breathing, and the thunder getting further and further away.


I saw the sun come up in the morning and heard the birds starting to sing, and oh I'd never felt so happy father, and they brought us our breakfast on a trolley, full English and toast with marmalade and honey in a beehive with a twizzly little stick and a pot of coffee all on a nice clean cloth. And I said if we were married we could do this every day and he said well at the weekend anyway because what about getting to work, and he smiled, cutting his fried egg into slices and mopping the yolk with bread and spreading marmalade really thick on the toast, and it was lovely watching him. And when we left he paid for both of us even though I'd said I'd go dutch, and he said it was his treat and the rest of the day was all mine and where did I want to go, and I said oh anywhere, let's just drive.


So we just drove, and the countryside was all wet and sparkly in the sunshine, and we were sending huge waves up from the puddles at the side of the road, holding hands and singing and not caring about the speed or the roadworks till it was too late, and the car was skidding on the mud, going sideways and turning over, and I heard him shouting hold on and saw his hands all white they were so tight on the wheel. And I didn't even scream like they do in the films, I couldn't because I was just this great silent mass of terror holding on saying holy God holy God over and over, and I could see him pulling at the wheel as the car rolled over until I thought it was never going to stop. And then it did and his head sort of flopped sideways against the window and I knew he was dead, and then I screamed because every part of my body was on fire with pain, and there was blood everywhere and I thought I was going to die too, and I wanted to, father, I wanted to, I don't care if it was wrong, I did.


And when they got me out I went on screaming until they strapped me down on a trolley and said I was going to be all right and then everything went dark, until I woke up here. And I haven't died and they keep saying I'm going to be fine, but I'm not and I'm never going to be, and half my bones are broken and my face is ruined, and I don't care because my heart hurts worse than any of it, and I am guilty as hell for doing what I did, only it's all right father, I'm getting my punishment for it. I know you never get the better of God, he's a right hard bastard like my dad.


Whatever you do sooner or later God will get you for it and what good is it you praying for me because it was all my fault and the wages of sin is death all right, like you always said. Only it wasn't me that died, and it should have been because he was the one beautiful thing in the world and I don't care if I'm damned and go to hell for it because the last person I ever want to see ever in my life is God.







Claire Girvan is the 2nd Prize Winner in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition (July 2010) with 'Wages'



SPQ #2





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